IN PURSUIT OF THE MOON'S MAGIC
By Kevin Jennings
Illustration by Chaunte Vaughn
It is She, the Moon, who rides upon the tides of night on the high stellar seas, her silken sails are the gossamer veils of mist and moonlight. It is She who speaks to us and knows our deepest longings and meets us in that silent, wordless place. It is She who is ever with us, who has given birth to us and will come to greet us when it is time to cross the threshold that separates the living and the dead. And it will be She who holds us fast in the mysteries of darkness, until our time of slumber has ended and we born into an awakening world of new light.
Bewitching and mysterious, since antiquity the moon has been revered as the Queen of the Night, her pale and luminous face symbolizing the very essence of femininity and power. In her cycles, in her rhythms, she presides over all of life, from conception and birth, to death and rebirth.
She embodies a primal archetypal power, not only of the nurturing Mother and the alluring Enchantress, but also as the keeper of the mysteries of the Underworld - the realm of death, destruction and regeneration.
In classical Greek mythology we may trace a feminine lunar lineage from the goddess Phoebe, the primeval Titaness of the Moon. Her name means bright and pure - suggesting pristine moonlight - and she is associated with prophetic wisdom and clairvoyance. She gives birth to two daughters, Leto and Asteria, passing her lunar legacy to them.
Leto's name may have it's origins in the "oblivion" that is brought by eating the fruit of the "lotus", and can be interpreted as "the hidden one", or conversely "the bright one". Perhaps we can reconcile these contradictions by understanding that Leto symbolizes the hidden light. Her sister is radiant Asteria, she who is "of the stars", the goddess of nocturnal oracles and astrology.
The lunar lineage continues, descending through Leto and Asteria to their daughters. Asteria gives birth to Diana, the resplendent maiden huntress with a diadem of the crescent moon in her hair. She roams the wild hills with her hounds, bow and arrow in hand. Leto's child is the dark robed Hecate, the wise woman. She and her canine companions guard the liminal places - the thresholds and crossroads of life - and she is honored as the protectress of childbirth and magic.
To this day some believe as our ancestors did, that the Moon has dominion over life's most profound secrets, concealing or revealing her riches like the spoils of shipwreck. Hers is a fabulous sunken treasure; either swallowed by the waves to sleep forever beneath the sea, or washed ashore and discovered glittering upon the gleaming sand. The metaphysical mysteries state that all that comes into being is born of her, and in the great sea of life, she is the source of everything.
In her relationship with the Sun, together they encompass all possible polarities in their passionate pas de deux. As they dance, timelessness encounters the temporal, the eternal and the fleeting embrace, and that which constantly changes meets and falls in love with the unchanging. Here we begin to behold her primordial power, for as she reflects and refracts his celestial fire, she begets pure being and gives birth to the very nature of consciousness itself. Her realm is the meeting place of spirit and matter, energy and form, mind and magic.
When the Sun loses sight of her - as he does during a lunar eclipse - this incites the mortal blood to run intense and wild, and raw and urgent are the appetites. A lunar eclipse can occur only at the peak of the moon's greatest loveliness - when she is full. How bitter is that moment, her brilliance thwarted and she is cast into darkness, the night devoid of it's Queen.
A primitive terror begins to stir and spread as her beauty is occluded by earth's shadow. If left unchecked, this fear can send us reeling. The familiar suddenly gives way to the frightening; the cosmos seeming to crack and careen into chaos. Like the grieving Sun, we long for her light to return; and moonstruck, we rage and howl in our lovesickness until we glimpse her face again.
Though patience is the prescription of the wise, seldom is this medicine taken. The eclipse passes, gradually the fever in the blood runs it's course and the delirium dissipates, eventually the afflicted return to greater equilibrium. Even so, some will vehemently insist that the Moon has lead them to madness; maintaining that after all, lunacy is derived from her Latin name: Luna.
But there are those who's affections never waiver, they are ever steadfast and loyal in their love for her: the poets, the mystics, and the lovers. To them, and to the artists, magicians and dreamers, the moon whispers her secrets. She intimates that sometimes genius and madness walk hand in hand, and that lovers and lunatics may be linked and alike, in that they share a common bond; for in every great love lives some divine insanity.
The moon is said to hold sway over the imagination and the ability to create inner images. This is a wondrous gift of great importance in fashioning our futures; for before we can achieve it, we must first conceive it. This power of envisioning, of dreaming ourselves into the new reality, is at the foundation of her fabled connection to magic. From pre-history people have emulated her rhythms in rituals of sympathetic magic: making new moon wishes, bringing tasks to fruition at the moon's full ripeness, and releasing the past as the moon wanes.
Her ever shifting appearance was humanities first measure of time, and a month (or moonth!) has it's origins in marking one entire moon cycle from beginning to end. Out of darkness, first she reveals herself as a slender silver crescent. Then each successive night she grows brighter, becoming increasingly voluptuous, until at last she emanates a dazzling fullness. Nightly thereafter, her light diminishing, she dims into darkness and finally disappears, her cycle spent. For three nights she rests in the mystery of darkness until the commencement of new light.
These phases were understood to correspond with the stages in a woman's life. The waxing moon was equated with the maiden, a time of bright promise and possibility. The Full Moon was regarded as the era of motherhood and maturity, fulsome with fertility and sexual fulfillment. And finally, the waning moon represented the wise woman, reaching the culmination of a rich and fruitful life, her experiences now transformed into profound insight and penetrating spiritual perception.
The moon's sister is the next brightest light of the night sky, the planet Venus. She is the Queen of Love, and the sovereign of the sensuous. She understands desire, the force of attraction and the power of romance. Venus adores all that is beautiful, in both art and nature. Generative and generous, she is lavish in her appreciation, giving with an opulence that astonishes. In this way she epitomizes abundance, and presides over wealth, prosperity, and riches. In her realm the ultimate concerns are luxury and Love, and always she rules from her heart.
Sometimes the Moon and Venus meet, at dawn or dusk, in the still and suspended hour that is neither night nor day, but both. The gathering Goddesses - gorgeous as they sit together in the glimmering sky - symbolize the meeting and joining together of two aspects of feminine power, and their rendezvous reminds us of their essential unity. For in a certain way, they are not different beings, but rather separate and distinct facets of the one Divine Feminine.
The moon is said to be the receptive power, holding the potential for creation; while Venus is the dynamic power, the activation of creativity. The moon contains The Mystery, which Venus then transforms into the mysteries of love. They follow one upon the other, like the great breathing in and breathing out of the Universe.
The moon understands this, for in her way of circles and cycles, she bids us to return finally to the place where we began. It is then that we will meet at the crossroads and pass beyond the threshold once more, to reunite in the fullness of her beauty and power. It is then that we will remember what once we knew long ago, that hidden within the heart of the moon is the greatest mystery; for all that comes into being is born of her, and in the great sea of life, she is the source of everything.